By Prince Kurupati
One would think that for a government which has prioritized re-engagement with the outside world in a bid to resuscitate its economy, political optics are everything. However, that is not how the Zimbabwean government (or more specifically, the presidential spokesman) sees it.
With many expecting George Charamba, Zimbabwe’s presidential spokesman to take the opportunity afforded to him by the state-controlled Sunday Mail to paint the country’s image in a positive way following the disturbing events of last week which saw protesters clashing with security forces and at least 12 people were confirmed dead, Charamba instead decided to tell the citizens that they can expect more of the same in the future.
In his post, George Charamba wrote that “(The) government will not stand by while such narrow interests play out so violently. The response so far is just a foretaste of things to come.” In as much as the post is threatening, it’s also surprising and at the same time amusing considering the post the writer holds.
Charamba’s unfortunate pronouncements only add to the growing concerns about the government’s inability to address the needs of the people in a non-violent manner.
Charamba’s words are in stark contrast to the words of the President who in a series of tweets condemned violence, both on the side of the protesters and also on the side of the security forces. For the protesters, the President called upon all to refrain from looting and damaging property. For the security forces, the President said chaos and insubordination would not be tolerated and if required, heads will roll. Below, are the President’s Tweets:
“One week ago, I announced measures to stabilize our nation’s crucial fuel supply. I was aware that these measures may not be popular, and this was not a decision we took lightly. But it was the right thing to do ¼
What followed was regrettable and tragic. Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest. Wanton violence and cynical destruction; looting police stations, stealing guns and uniforms; incitement and threats of violence. This is not the Zimbabwean way 2/4
Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll ¾
I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civic leaders to set aside our differences and come together. What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first. Let’s put the people first 4/4”
Zimbabwe witnessed massive anti-fuel-price increases protests last week after the government hiked fuel prices by over 100 percent. Initially, organizers had planned for a stay away but on the very first day, instead of remaining in their homes, people flocked into the streets. Some opportunistic elements then started to loot shops, attacked government vehicles and burn government property. The government reacted violently sending security forces who mercilessly beat protesters and in some instances shooting at the protesters. According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, at least 12 people were shot dead and 78 treated for gunshot injuries over the last week.